RE­VIEW: STYLISH LOEWE BILD 3.55 OLED TV IS A CLASS APART

SmartHouse - - REVIEW // LOEWE - Writ­ten by STEVE MAY

The Loewe Bild 3.55 OLED TV is a fine look­ing flatscreen, in ev­ery sense.

Loewe was one of the first TV brands to el­e­vate the de­sign of the hum­ble tele­vi­sion into some­thing that ap­proached art. Un­der the guid­ance of cre­ative di­rec­tor Bodo Sper­lein, it brought a sense of min­i­mal­ist re­fine­ment to its flatscreens; it wanted them to look as good off as on.

With the Bild 3.55, it’s clear the Ger­man brand hasn’t run out of ideas. De­spite the fact that this is os­ten­si­bly a Loewe ‘bud­get’ of­fer­ing, it has em­bel­lish­ments that will de­light those look­ing for class above cost-sav­ings.

The Loewe Bild 3 line-up ac­tu­ally con­sists of both LED LCD as well as OLED mod­els. The ver­sion we have here is a 55-inch OLED, but there’s also si­b­ling 3.49 and 3.43 LCD screens. Stylis­ti­cally, they all look ex­actly the same. Good news if you want to de­ploy mul­ti­ple Loewe TVs around your house, and have them match.

The TV sits on a pedestal stand, and fea­tures a dis­tinct cir­cu­lar LED sta­tus in­di­ca­tor. A for­ward fac­ing speaker ar­ray (we hes­i­tate to call it a sound­bar) is fin­ished in an acous­ti­cally neu­tral char­coal fab­ric. Look top right, and you’ll find the Loewe logo on a tag jut­ting out from the ul­tra thin alu­minium bezel.

The glass it­self is just 4.9mm thin, but fills out to ac­com­mo­date con­nec­tiv­ity. There are four HDMIs, all HDCP 2.2 com­pli­ant for use with other 4K UHD gear, plus mi­cro AV, a trio of USBs, Eth­er­net and a dig­i­tal au­dio out­put.

When you con­nect an HDR source, it’s im­por­tant to en­sure all the rel­e­vant HDMIs are set up cor­rectly. Uncheck the Com­pat­i­bil­ity mode in the HDMI menu, as this is in­tended for older de­vices only. This is the only way your TV will recog­nise that it’s get­ting an HDR sig­nal.

The sup­plied re­mote con­trol has com­men­su­rate heft, and sports a nice hair­line fin­ish. There’s noth­ing plas­tricky about this poin­ter. It’s premium all the way.

While Loewe doesn’t have a smart por­tal able to ri­val LG’s we­bOS or even An­droid, what we do have is per­fectly func­tional. Loewe TVs have long of­fered a level of con­nected smart­ness, so it’s hardly late to the party.

A clean, smart OS com­bines stream­ing ser­vices with a chan­nel guide and in­puts se­lec­tion and set­tings. I like the fact that the graph­ics are cus­tomis­able, so the UI can be made a bit more be­spoke and in­tu­itive. Pro­fes­sional cus­tom in­staller types will like this Bild’s con­nec­tiv­ity too, be­cause it has in­te­grated sup­port for pop­u­lar con­trol sys­tems (Con­trol4, Cre­stron) and third party smart home ecosys­tems (like KNX).

Ev­ery­day folks will prob­a­bly be more im­pressed by the fact the set sup­ports Blue­tooth head­phones. This is a great fea­ture for late night lis­ten­ing (and those want­ing to es­cape noisy house­holds).

An­other nicety is the op­tional DR+ up­grade, which al­lows you to spec an in­ter­nal hard drive recorder. When you have mul­ti­ple Loewe con­nected TVs on your home net­work, you can watch record­ings made on one set, in an­other room, and even fol­low pro­grammes on con­nected screens around the house.

Pic­ture qual­ity is im­me­di­ately im­pres­sive. Just like ev­ery other man­u­fac­turer, Loewe sources OLED pan­els from LG Dis­play, but brings its own sen­si­bil­ity to im­age pro­cess­ing. The black level per­for­mance of this set is pre­dictably dra­matic, while colour vi­brancy is high. Im­ages have eye candy pop and deep im­pact.

While Loewe doesn’t sub­mit screens for Ul­tra HD Premium cer­ti­fi­ca­tion by the HDR Al­liance, this model clearly ex­ceeds that spec­i­fi­ca­tion. The Bild 3.55’s HDR per­for­mance is im­pres­sive. In ad­di­tion to HDR10, there’s sup­port for HLG and Dolby Vi­sion HDR.

We mea­sured peak lu­mi­nance at 749 cd/ m² (aka nits) in a 5 per­cent win­dow, and only slightly less in a 10 per cent win­dow. HDR se­quences are han­dled with a nat­u­ral balance, of­fer­ing con­vinc­ing spec­tral high­lights (re­flec­tions, head­lights, the sun etc) and inky blacks.

The Im­age pre­set op­tions are fairly lim­ited, and com­prise Home, Premium, Cin­ema, Shop and Per­sonal. Th­ese ro­tate to HDR Bright, HDR Dark and HDR Premium, when you in­put high dy­namic range con­tent.

The Cin­ema mode is ar­guably the least at­trac­tive. It adopts an overly warm tone, which robs the screen of con­trast. With 4K ma­te­rial this di­lutes fine de­tail. The more neu­tral Home mode proves to be the best op­tion for most view­ing.

There are some ad­di­tional Loewe pic­ture op­tions which war­rant a closer look. For ex­am­ple, Im­age+ Ac­tive is a be­spoke pic­ture pro­cess­ing mode with Soft, Nor­mal, Ex­tended and In­ten­sive set­tings. It’s in­tended to give im­ages en­hanced con­trast, but can en­gulf near black shadow de­tail. Our ad­vice is treat it with cau­tion.

More use­ful is a de­block­ing fil­ter, which com­pen­sates for low com­pres­sion arte­facts from stream­ing video ser­vices.

The set also boasts DMM im­age in­ter­po­la­tion for bet­ter mo­tion han­dling. It comes in Soft, Mid­dle and In­ten­sive strengths, but while it smooths fast mov­ing sports, it can add vis­i­ble MPEG arte­facts. If you want to keep movies look­ing cin­e­matic, it’s prob­a­bly worth turn­ing DMM off.

Son­i­cally, the set is solid. That for­ward fac­ing speaker proves to be ex­tremely pow­er­ful. Rated at 2x40w, it cre­ates a wide stereo sound­stage. Bass re­sponse is lightweight, there’s noth­ing be­low 100Hz, but for ev­ery­day view­ing it more than does the job. AV en­thu­si­asts will prob­a­bly want to part­ner the panel with a top flight AV re­ceiver any­way. Un­like LG’s screens, there’s no Dolby At­mos au­dio de­coder on­board.

While the most ob­vi­ous source for the Bild 3.55 is UHD Blu-ray, it also looks out­stand­ing with high res­o­lu­tion games, al­though you’ll need take care with the view­ing mode. Us­ing the Home set­ting, im­age lag is way too high at 106.5ms. Move to the Gam­ing mode and it of­fers a more re­spectable 39.9ms - al­though this is still rel­a­tively laggy. Loewe should be push­ing to get this be­low 30ms.

Verdict

The OLED TV mar­ket may be hugely com­pet­i­tive right now, with both Sony and LG de­liv­er­ing some as­ton­ish­ing screens, but Loewe con­tin­ues to carve a niche all its own. We’d like to see Loewe en­gi­neers fine tune the Gam­ing mode, and per­haps up­date the Cin­ema pre­set to bet­ter rep­re­sent the mod­ern movie ex­pe­ri­ence, but th­ese are small caveats. Over­all, the Bild 3.55 is a highly stylish flatscreen with a fine pic­ture per­for­mance and above av­er­age au­dio.

If you want to im­prove your im­age, Loewe is a good place to start.

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